Intervention: Media Access Canada (Intervenor 246)

Document Name: 2015-134.223960.2394411.Intervention(1fbjf01!).pdf


14 July 2015
John Traversey
Secretary General
Ottawa, ON
*** ***
**** Mr. Secretary General,

Re: Review of basic telecommunications services. Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2015-134 (Ottawa, 9 ****)

Media Access Canada (MAC) on behalf of the Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders is pleased to submit the attached intervention in response to the proceeding noted above.

MAC requests to be made a party to this proceeding and the opportunity to appear before the Commission in Gatineau to further address issues under consideration by the Commission in the Notice of Proceeding. We request sign language interpretation and CART. We will contact you within the specified time frame if we require video conferencing. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned.

Sincerely yours,
**** Milligan

MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders Basic Service:

Setting the Bar for Canadians with
Comments of Media Access Canada

Review of basic telecommunications services. Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2015-134 (Ottawa, 9 ****)

14 July 2015

MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders Table of Contents

1. Executive Summary
2. About Media Access Canada
3. Underlying principles and objectives

4. Disabilities perspective on specific issues raised by the CRTC in the Notice of Hearing (Appendix B)

4.1 **** targets/basic service standards
4.2 The role of the Commission

4.3 Basic services funding for disabled Canadians: National Disability Subsidy Fund (NDSF)

4.4. Compliance: Disability Rights Office (DRO)
5. Conclusions and recommendations

3 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders 1. Executive Summary

1 Media Access Canada (MAC) is a not-for-profit bilingual organization with a mandate to increase the quantity and quality of accessible content in Canada’s broadcasting and telecommunication industry sector. MAC’s board of directors is elected, bi-yearly, by the Access 2020 Group of Stakeholders (Access 2020) who with and through MAC act as one united voice on key issues, to ensure broadcast and telecommunications are completely accessible to all Canadians (including those who are blind, have low vision, are deaf, hard of hearing or have cognitive or mobility disabilities) by the year 2020.

2 There are very few issues where disability organizations from all corners of Canada have been able to agree and work together, but MAC has accomplished this in the area of media accessibility. Through one united voice, MAC, Canadians with disabilities have been able to develop the necessary expertise to engage with all media stakeholders to better explain their needs and the opportunities to address those needs within the scope of Canada’s Broadcasting and Telecommunications Acts.

3 Access to reliable and affordable Internet connectivity represents a critical element of the ability of Canadians with disabilities to take part in social and economic activities. Over the past decade, a wide range of Internet applications have evolved that help enhance the quality of life and opportunities for people with disabilities. The ability of Canadians with disabilities to deploy these enabling applications depends on the availability of fixed and mobile broadband networks that are able to deliver high-speed and symmetric connections with minimum service quality guarantees.

4 Unfortunately, service providers in Canada only offer retail Internet access services on a best effort basis (i.e. “up to xMbps). Although some higher end advertised speeds available in the market might be theoretically sufficient to meet the needs of Canadians with disabilities in terms of download speeds, there are no providers in the market that guarantee the service quality they are able to deliver on a sustained basis. Furthermore, upload speeds on the Canadian broadband system are particularly asymmetric relative to other advanced countries. These factors make it challenging for MAC stakeholders to take advantage of opportunities provided by the wide variety of assistive and enabling 4 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders Internet applications available in the market to members of the MAC/Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders.

5 Advances in network control technologies over the past decade now make it increasingly feasible for service providers to provide service quality guarantees on shared network subject to congestion.1 Consequently, from a technological perspective, it is increasingly feasible for providers to offer retail services that incorporate minimum service quality guarantees (versus the current best effort standard). Even if operators continue to offer most of their plans based on a best effort/maximum link speed basis, the Commission could require them to offer one plan that commits operators to specific minimum service quality standards the Commission deems to be appropriate (i.e. in terms up/down load speeds, latency, etc.).

6 MAC supports the Commission in its efforts to update the existing Telecommunications Basic Service requirements and respectfully request it consider the user needs of consumers with disabilities. Otherwise, Canadians with disabilities will continue to pay for services they cannot use and have limited access to the variety of existing and emerging Internet applications designed for the diverse communications and assistive needs of the community of persons with disabilities.

7 Mobile devices and applications offer a broad array of new opportunities to our communities. Consequently, we submit the Commission includes both fixed and mobile services in the basic service obligation framework. . Fixed/mobile network convergence and technological neutrality considerations mandated under the 2006 Policy Direction require this.

8 Due to challenges they face in entering labour markets, Canadians with disabilities tend to have relatively limited disposable income to allocate to basic telecommunications services. Unfortunately, prices in the market for fixed and mobile services in Canada tend to be relatively high compared to other advanced economies.2 To help address affordability concerns for Canadians with disabilities , we propose part of any funds collected by the Commission should be 1 Most Canadian operators have installed intelligent broadband control systems that have this type of functionality.

See for example technologies available and list of clients that employ Sandvine’s solutions:

2 5 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders allocated to subsidizing affordable access to basic telecommunications services for Canadians both with disabilities..

9 Access 2020 and MAC would like to acknowledge the contribution of Analysis and Research in Communications (ARC), the **** Squire Society and Dr. **** Rajabiun as the subject material experts in the research and preparation of this submission.

10 We request the opportunity to appear before the Commission at its Gatineau public hearing to address our recommendations in greater detail and to respond to the CRTC’s questions.

6 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders 2. About Media Access Canada (MAC)

11 Access 2020 was formed to unite accessibility organizations with the same objective to deliver, with one voice, a clear and concise message that government, the Commission and other stakeholders could understand and respond to. To do this, Access 2020 created MAC and bi-yearly elects MAC’s board of directors.

12 Over the last 3 years, MAC has led Access 2020 which consists of a broad range of organizations, associations and individuals whose common goal is to achieve the complete accessibility of Canada’s communications system for Canadians with disabilities by 2020.

13 Access 2020 Group participants cross a diverse spectrum of Canadians with disabilities3 to include a voice for blind and low vision, deaf and hard of hearing, mobility, cognitive and intellectual disabilities, and includes, but is not limited to National organizations such as **** of Dimes, Easter Seals, Canadian Council of the ****, Disabled Women’s Network/ Réseau d’action des femmes handicapées, Canadian Hearing Society and Canadian Hard of Hearing Association.

14 Access 2020 advocates policies that reflect the needs and concerns of all Canadians who will benefit from accessing the Canadian broadcasting and telecommunication systems.

3. Underlying principles and objectives

15 After consultations and research with our constituency and the disability community at large, we have adopted a set of underlying principles and objectives that serve as the context through which we provide the Commission with comment in this proceeding. They are:

• The CRTC basic services regulatory framework must provide access to telecommunication services for all Canadians with disabilities.

3 See MAC web site for partners,

7 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders • Canadians with disabilities represent 13.7%4 of Canadian society and have legal rights5 to have equivalent access to Canada’s entire telecommunications system including voice, wireless and


• Canadians with disabilities should not have to pay for services they cannot use due to their disability.

• Canadians with disabilities have unique broadband needs that differ from other Canadians which must be recognized in extending basic service standards and or obligations to Internet access services.

• Basic Internet access services must be provided at prices that are affordable relative to average income of Canadians with disabilities.

To ensure that Canadians with disabilities can afford connectivity, the Commission and Industry Canada should develop a program for subsiding broadband access to Canadians with disabilities that cannot work or have low incomes.6

16 MAC stakeholders recognize access to reliable and affordable Internet access services of a high quality to be critical to the ability of Canadians with disabilities to learn to overcome their unique challenges, build social network and participate fully in the digital economy. The fact that the Commission chose not to define broadband Internet access as a basic service in Telecom Regulatory Policy 2011-291 represents a source of concern for MAC stakeholders and Canadians with disabilities trying to use advanced information technologies to improve their quality of life and take advantage of economic opportunities the digital economy offers those with a disability. Consequently, MAC supports current efforts by the CRTC in this proceeding to revise and update the basic telecommunications service framework to include broadband Internet access and to establish verifiable minimum service quality standards for service providers.

4 An estimated 3.8 million adult Canadians reported being limited in their daily activities due to a disability in 2012.

This represents 13.7% of the adult population. 5 See section 4.3 The role of the Commission.

6 For example, a long term care individual will have an income of around $120.00 per month in Ontario. With this she/he cannot afford both a land line and Internet access services. With subsidized internet access, they may be able to subscribe to communications and broadcasting services (e.g. Skype where they can call anywhere in the world for a nominal price), accessible programming, and/or to advanced multimedia and cloud computing applications designed to care for and enable the disabled.

8 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders 17 We believe Canada’s basic service policy framework should specifically recognize Canadians with disabilities. We request the Commission uses this proceeding to formalize the obligation of telecommunication service providers to recognize and address the unique and basic needs of Canadians with disabilities for reliable and affordable Internet connectivity. Such a formal recognition by the Commission might be instrumental in motivating service providers to consider and respond to the needs for Canadians with disabilities for ultra high-speed, symmetric, and affordable connectivity. Given the increasing importance of mobile access, we request the Commission establishes a basic service framework with minimum service quality standards that apply to both fixed and mobile Internet access services.

4. Disabilities perspective on specific issues raised by the CRTC in the Notice of Hearing (Appendix B)

4.1. Canadians with disabilities’ evolving needs for basic telecommunications services

18 Canadians with disabilities employ telecommunications services in a variety of ways that are similar to other Canadians, but also have special needs that depend on the nature of their disability. Access 2020 and MAC advocate on behalf of all Canadians with disabilities, which represent a diverse community of peoples with challenges ranging from congenital physical and developmental issues to elderly Canadians with deteriorating hearing, vision and mobility. Given Canada’s aging population, issues raised by MAC on behalf of our stakeholders should be of general concern to all Canadians who hope to employ the Internet to remain connected and enhance their quality of life later on.

19 Beside general purpose and specific applications designed for people with disabilities, there is a wide range of healthcare and other support mechanisms that require basic Internet connectivity. These mechanisms have the potential to enable those with relatively severe disabilities to live more independently, as well as reducing the costs of delivering healthcare, education, and other social support infrastructures. Over the few next years, a wide variety of advanced applications using Artificial Intelligence methods to help overcome particular 9 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders disabilities are expected to reach the market.7 Deploying and controlling many current and future applications will require Internet connections with high speeds in terms of both download and upload throughput, low latency, as well as minimum service quality guarantees to ensure usability and safety.

20 In general, Canadians with disabilities tend to have higher demand for advanced communications applications that rely on broadband Internet connectivity. For example, the deaf and hard of hearing can employ video services to communicate with others using sign language. However, usability of video services via legacy or advanced broadband platforms depends critically on availability of relatively high symmetric connectivity speeds and low latency.

During the times of the day when most end users want to use the network (i.e.

late afternoons, evenings), congestion reduces the ability of all users to deploy more network intensive applications such as video. While in Telecom Regulatory Policy 2014-187 recognized the special needs of Canadians who are deaf in terms of video relay services (VRS), requiring operators to offer some minimum service quality guarantees on Internet access services is likely to be a more general and robust solution to a problem the Commission has already recognized.

21 The challenges facing people who are deaf in using video or multimedia services during periods of high demand for network resources (i.e. late afternoons, evenings) represents only one manifestation of a broader problem presented by service quality degradation on shared network infrastructure for Canadians with disabilities. Although deviations of actual service quality from best effort maximum link speeds specified in retail contracts reduce the ability of all end users to deploy more network intensive applications, they have a particularly negative effect on Canadians with disabilities. To illustrate this, consider comments from a MAC stakeholder commenting on the importance of access to reliable and affordable Internet access services for Canadians with a similar disability:

.… “my opinion, doubtless endorsed by most blind people, is that on top of the time consumed for a screen reader and a print enlarger to organize and deliver a screen full of information, the time necessary to deliver that screen can only make browsing more slow and tedious. While certain modes of video compression keep important elements of the 7 For examples see: Davydenko, Ekaterina. Artificial Intelligence in the Education of Children with Learning Disabilities. 2012. 10 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders screen which don't change, for redelivery, screen reading technology interrogates the entire screen for any change. Hence, there is no time…………It's obvious that the seeing user desires higher speeds, and there is no reason to believe that low vision or blind people have any less desire. In simple terms, the compounding complexity of screen readers with slow data speed, prolongs the waiting. A part of blindness seldom discussed, is boredom. **** people cannot easily look around the room at pictures on the wall, or out the window to see the birds in the trees, or doodle. So one may daydream, scheme, or count the ticks of the clock. Hence, quick data recovery can make one's Internet experience much more comfortable. Unemployed and retired blind people have found a whole new world of interest, adventure, and purpose in their computing devices, and like their seeing peers, many spend the whole day reading newspapers, in audio chat rooms, on list serves, on Facebook, on twitter, and listening to audio streams of recorded materials, frequently with description. Communities of blind people, like their seeing peers, on the Internet trade audio from their DVD collections, especially items with DVS tracks.

These audio files can be 1 to 200 MB, even when compressed, and downloading can take time. Downloading tends to be preferred as streaming can be inconsistent at times of Internet congestion or server failure. Also, blind people packed material onto portable MP3 type players or their phones to listen while traveling, waiting in doctors offices, or relaxing on the deck. Remember now, riding in the car or on the bus can be incredibly boring because one cannot people watch or look out the window………While library books are all well and good, blind people like to stay in tune with all aspects of modern culture, and these days for blind people, much of that comes from the Internet. It goes without saying that this should be made possible without complications and consuming the least time possible.”

4.2. **** targets/basic service standards

22 **** targets of 5 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up adopted by the Commission in 2011 remain substantially lower than those that have been adopted in other high income countries to promote access to basic broadband services, including by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the U.S. and the European Commission (EC). Consequently, on face value the current standards for defining broadband by the Commission are not internationally competitive. **** targets that challenge private sector operators to improve the quality of their services would be in the interests of both able and Canadians with disabilities.

23 Although 5 Mbps of sustained download speeds might be sufficient for delivering most advanced applications end users with a disability demand (i.e.

video, multimedia, content services, cloud computing, etc), service providers offer this level of service only on a best effort basis. Even if an end user pays for 11 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders access packages with advertised speeds that are substantially higher than 5 Mbps (e.g. 200+ Mbps as is advertised in some urban markets), there are no operators in the Canadian market that are willing to guarantee a pre-specified level of service quality/speeds to retail customers. The lack of service quality guarantees in the Canadian broadband market represents a key concern for the disability community due to our diverse needs for a variety of over-the-top (OTT) services designed for our needs.

24 The lack of retail Internet access services with minimum service quality guarantees further limits the ability of the those with a disability, their families, and the broader public sector that tries to address our needs to deploy advanced applications for safety and reliability reasons. This is not only important in terms of the quality of Internet connectivity, but reduces the scope for a variety of applications that can reduce the costs of delivering other public services such as healthcare and education to all Canadians, including those with a disability.

25 Furthermore, the current broadband speed targets are highly asymmetric as the 1 Mbps upload speed the Commission specified in 2011 remains below the 1.5 symmetric connectivity speeds recommended by the National Broadband Task Force back in 2001.8 Given the low upload speed targets, it is not surprising that Canada’s broadband system exhibits particularly low upload speeds relative to other high income countries.9 As the example of video services for the deaf and the hard of hearing illustrates, symmetric connectivity speeds are required for a broad range of advanced Internet applications and content services that serve our needs.

26 Although MAC recognizes that it may not be possible for network providers to increase upload speeds very quickly due to technological limitations of legacy copper/DSL and cable networks, increasingly symmetric connectivity speeds are critical to the ability of Canadians with disabilities to employ more advanced internet applications in a consistent and reliable manner.

Consequently, we submit that the Commission should set more ambitious targets for upload speeds that encourage service providers to upgrade their networks and offer more symmetric Internet connectivity services.

8 9

12 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders

27 Reliability and safety considerations in Internet applications, MAC stakeholders increasingly require minimum service quality guarantees, which are not currently available in the retail market. Retail contracts specified in terms of best effort/maximum link speeds (i.e. up to xMbps) generate considerable uncertainties about the usability of the connection in periods of high demand for network resources the operator has provisioned. We submit that the Commission should require operators to offer at least one basic subscription package that offers service quality guarantees to end users whose particular needs requires them for basic as a condition of access (e.g. a person with a disability needing remote health care, a deaf person requiring video relay).

28 It is important to note that demand for scarce broadband network resources has led to the development a variety of technologies that enable operators to intelligently control and differentiate service quality levels they deliver. Most Canadian operators have already deployed such technologies, enabling them to offer minimum service quality guarantees in retail contracts if they so choose (or are mandated by the Commission to do so).10 4.3. The role of the Commission

29 While the Commission is a quasi-judicial entity established to enforce the Telecommunications and Broadcasting Acts, and while the Telecommunications Act does not specifically reference Canadians with disabilities, similar to that of the Broadcasting Act, the Human Rights Act does:

”2. The purpose of this Act is to extend the laws in Canada to give effect, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, to the principle that all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on … disability …11.”

30 Further, while the Telecommunications Act does not specifically reference Canadians with disabilities, it does set out among its objectives the “orderly development throughout Canada of a telecommunications system that serves to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the social … fabric of Canada …” (7(a)), the 10 See for example technologies available and list of clients that employ Sandvine’s solutions:
11 Canadian Human Rights Act (R.S., 1985, c. H-6)

13 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders

“efficiency … of Canadian telecommunications” (7(c)), the stimulation of “research and development in Canada in the field of telecommunications” and the encouragement of “innovation in the provision of telecommunications services” (7(g)). The Telecommunications Act also requires telecommunications companies “to respond to the economic and social requirements of users of telecommunications services” (7(h)) and “to contribute to the protection of the privacy of persons.” (7(i)).

31 According to Statistics Canada, 13.7% of Canadians have self-identified as having a disability. But in fact that the needs of Canadians with disabilities significantly overlap those of seniors12 (even though seniors often do not consider themselves disabled). We see this manifesting in hearing loss, vision loss, mobility loss, etc. Disability tends to accompany the aging process. Therefore, the benefits of the recommendations in this Submission could potentially reach a far larger demographic than just the 13.7% who self-identify as having a disability. The “social fabric” and “economic and social requirements” of such a significant portion of the Canadian population must be addressed under the Telecommunications Act.

32 Therefore, the role of the Commission is to ensure that Canadians have access to reliable and affordable communications services of a high quality.

While the needs of Canadians with disabilities for basic Internet access services are broadly similar to others, they increasingly depend on the Internet as a platform for overcoming social obstacles and participating in the digital economy.

Canadians with disabilities expect the Commission and Industry Canada to take a leading role in setting basic standards of service we require. We also expect the Federal government to design innovative methods for encouraging private service providers to respond to the needs of Canadians with disabilities.

4.3 Specific regulatory measures

33 Regulatory framework: Canadians with disabilities consider access to high-speed Internet connectivity to be an increasingly essential input into their social and economic activities. Special purpose Internet applications designed for those with a disability provide us with a wide range of new opportunities to interact with others, develop economically valuable skills and participate in the digital economy. Remote monitoring and healthcare applications enhance our ability to live independently, enhance our quality of life, and reduce the costs delivering public services to our community. For these reasons, on behalf the 12 In 2014, over 6 million Canadians were aged 65 or older, representing 15.6 percent of Canada's population. By 2030—in less than two decades—seniors will number over 9.5 million and make up 23 percent of Canadians.

Additionally, by 2036, the average life expectancy at birth for women will rise to 86.2 years from the current 84.2 and to 82.9 years from the current 80 for men. 14 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders Access 2020 group of stakeholders, MAC submits that the Commission should reverse its decision in Telecom Regulatory Policy 2011-291 and classify high-speed Internet access as a basic telecommunications service under Section 7 of the Telecommunications Act. This reclassification would enhance the credibility of commitments by policymakers and operators to developing a world class digital infrastructure that serves all Canadians, including those with a disability.

34 Scope of the basic services framework: In addition to growing demand for ultra-high speed and symmetric fixed broadband connectivity, all Canadians are increasingly relying on mobile data services for a variety of new applications. A wide range of mobile applications designed open a set of new opportunities for MAC stakeholders to overcome their specific challenges and participate in social and economic activities. Consequently, we submit that the Commission should adopt a platform neutral approach to designing the regulatory framework by incorporating both fixed and mobile connectivity.

35 Funding access for Canadians with disabilities and low incomes:

Affordability issues represent a particular concern for Canadians with disabilities who tend to have relatively limited employment opportunities and can face substantial barriers in entering the labour market. According to data from Statistics Canada, people with disabilities are persistently less likely to be employed than people without disabilities (in 2006 50% of working age people with disabilities where employed, compared to 75% of people without disabilities). Given that Internet access for those with a disability can be critical for education, work, and deliver of healthcare services, MAC submits that the Commission and Industry Canada should develop a mechanism for subsidizing Internet access services for Canadians with disabilities and no or low income.

36 Access pricing: Although competition and innovation in the market for assistive Internet applications has lead to the development of a variety of applications for the those with a disability, the market for fixed and mobile Internet access services exhibits limited competition. Furthermore, international evidence documents prices for both fixed and mobile subscriptions in Canada tend to be relatively higher than average in most advanced countries.13 This coupled with the higher data requirements of Canadians with disabilities (for example a deaf person using video services to have an equivalent voice 13 15 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders conversation), means the costs of accessing the network are likely to be relatively higher for Canadians with disabilities. Given the relatively lower employment opportunities and incomes of the disabled, higher costs facing disabled persons limits their ability to access reliable and affordable services of a high quality as mandated under Section 7 of the Telecommunications Act. A targeted subsidy mechanism that provides a sustainable source of funding for disabled Canadians is required to enable them to take advantage of the opportunities the Internet offers to our stakeholders.

37 Other service issues of concern for Canadians with disabilities: Relatively high prices and low service quality in the Canadian broadband market tend to have a disproportionately negative impact on Canadians with disabilities. There are many examples of market practices and conventions that result in Canadians with disabilities paying for services that that they can not use in a reliable manner, do not meet minimum service quality standards they require, or paying relatively more than those without disabilities:

• A Canadian who is deaf must use video relay to have equivalent communication as voice. This is often more expensive because of the higher bandwidth demands of video relative to voice.

• In many instances, those with hearing disabilities find they must pay for voice as part of a bundled package because individual selection is more or equal cost.

• Often those with mobility disabilities depend on the Internet to participate in an equivalent manner to those who do not have mobility issues.

• Often those with vision and mobility disabilities depend on full telecommunications access to guide them while travelling.

• Persons with intellectual disabilities may not easily decipher wifi vs. 4G, if they are roaming or not or understand the small print in retail contracts. Often those with intellectual disabilities will require a paper bill in order to estimate or calculate fees, phone minutes and data usage.

• “…the woman with quadriplegic using her phone to get let into places where the doors are inaccessible. Cell phones ARE a safety device for all people with disabilities. I can tell you when I no longer had money enough for both land line and cell, the thought of cellular loss was the thing I panicked over. So I kept it 16 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders and let the land line go. It does not really matter what disability. Even when I was still in my walker, I was routinely lost by Handibus. In the city, payphones are dwindling due I am sure to increased vandalism, robbing coin boxes, and decreased use from cellphones. The payphones that do exist frequently no longer accept money. You had to specifically to TELUS to buy a special card to load with money. Again, obtaining this card was not easy and I have access to a vehicle and a spouse who can help14”.

38 Consumer protection: As the examples noted above suggest, Canadians with disabilities are more likely to become victims of the more unscrupulous practices by service providers. This includes, but is not limited to, concerns about roaming, bundled contracts, fine prints, and general lack of transparency in retail contracts. Although access to a low cost and efficient dispute processing and legal recourse is important for protecting all consumers, they are particularly important for Canadians with disabilities. Consequently, we submit the Commission should develop policies and institutional capabilities to accommodate the special needs of Canadians with disabilities.

39 Disabilities accommodation: Previous rulings by the CRTC and practices by Canadian service providers already acknowledge that people with disabilities need specific accommodations to provide them with equal access to services (for example previous rulings regarding reduced long distance charges to TTY users and the practice of providing free 411 referral services to users that have vision impairments). Under certain circumstances people with disabilities require more time to complete the same task and may be entitled to lower costs for specific services. This was previously recognized by the CRTC in its decision to reduce the cost of long distance charges in the Telecom Decision CRTC 97-19, a ruling more recently upheld in the CRTC Telecom Decision CRTC 2007-56. The CRTC recognized the need to provide accommodations for people with disabilities in Telecom Decision CRTC 97-19 when it asked that Stentor to: “include the 50% discount currently applicable to calls which originate from, and are billed to, the residence service of a registered certified hearing or speech-impaired Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD) user. In Telecom Decision CRTC 2007-56 the Commission extended this approach by recognizing the appreciably longer time required for the registered hearing- or speech-impaired subscribers to communicate over the telephone network, approving a discount on 14 Quote from e-mail of disabled Canadian

17 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders services to address the inequality between hearing- and speech-impaired telecommunications users and other telecommunications users.”15 In mandating a disabilities discount, the Commission determined that such a requirement would help to meet the objectives of paragraph 7(h) of the Act by responding to the economic and social requirements of telecommunications service users.

40 Internet access as a basic service: MAC/Access 2020 stakeholders recognize that access to reliable and affordable Internet connectivity represents a basic and critical input for enhancing the quality of life for Canadians with disabilities. We urge the Commission to build on its previous decisions recognizing the need for accommodating the needs of those with a disability. By imposing an obligation on operators to provide an affordable basic services package that meets the needs of Canadians with disabilities, the Commission would provide service providers with stronger incentives to invest in advanced network technologies (e.g. FTTP, 4G) designed to offer very high-connectivity speeds and quality of service guarantees (QoS) advanced applications for the disable tend to require. Mandating higher standards of basic service than those currently in place would benefit all Canadians, including those with a disability.

Any regulatory initiatives that aim to promote the obligation to serve the needs of Canadians with disabilities should be designed and applied in a technologically and competitively neutral manner to both fixed and mobile data services, as mandated under the 2006 Policy Direction.16

41 Funding mechanism design: Previous decisions by the CRTC that imposed discounts for users with a disability in order to account for their special requirements represent one approach to addressing concerns by Access 2020 group of stakeholders about affordability and quality of Internet access services in Canada. Tax credits for Canadians with disabilities and low incomes might help address affordability concerns in their case, but will not enhance access and affordability of services for the nearly 50% of those with a disability who cannot enter the labour market and have no taxable income to credit. A subsidy mechanism that targets those with very low or no income, for instance using 15 Fee free 411 directory assistance is another area where people with disabilities have achieved appropriate accommodate through the efforts of the CRTC. In 2003, the CRTC responded to an application by the Advocates for Sight Impaired Consumers (ASIC)to exempt the registered blind, visually impaired and deaf-blind Telus Communications Inc. (TCI) customers (disabled customers) from the automatic directory assistance call completion(ADACC) service charge of $0.35 per call.

16 Access 2020 notes that even some operators recognize that obligations to serve the disabled should be applied to all members of the telecommunications industry in order to preserve competitive neutrality.

18 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders vouchers, represents a more efficient option for allocating scarce funds to Canadians with disabilities that might need it most to pay for basic Internet access services they require. These subsidies can make it affordable for Canadians with disabilities to purchase relatively more expensive retail contracts that offer higher speeds, have fewer data caps and other traffic management restrictions than cheaper/lower end subscriptions in the market.

42 National Disabilities Subsidy Fund (NDSF): Regardless of the exact design of the fund allocation mechanism, MAC/Access 2020 group of disabilities stakeholders submit that the Commission should develop a National Disabilities Subsidy Fund (NDSF) to ensure basic telecommunications service needs of Canadians with disabilities can be addressed in a sustainable manner. To fund this mechanism, the Commission must define broadband Internet access and mandate large operators that dominate the Canadian retail markets to contribute to the fund.

4.4. Compliance: Disability Rights Office (DRO)

43 Proposal: There is strong agreement in the disability community about the need to establish a Disability Rights Office (DRO) in Canada. Such an office can be either situated at the CRTC or operate as a stand alone entity. The objective of a DRO would be to ensure that concerns about equivalence of access and consumer protection relating to Canadians with disabilities are addressed in a timely and effective manner.

44 Functions of the DRO: At its inception, the DRO will advise and educate the Commission on disability issues and act as the Commissions’ disability lens on existing and new policies. Furthermore, the office will provide customer service support to Canadians with disabilities experiencing difficulties interacting with industry and mediating cases.17 This would include everything from knowing what products are available to Canadians with distinct needs and access services they require, assisting them with paperwork, to explaining how to connect assistive devices and applications to the network. Importantly, the DRO would also build industry partnerships intended to educate service providers, Canadians with disabilities and other industry stakeholders about to how to address disabilities issues. The proposed office would further work in partnership 17 For example, in May 2015, a blind Canadian was told by customer service at the CRTC and MTS that she would not be provided with alternative format materials to understand how to use what she had purchased.

19 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders with the office of the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) and other relevant bodies, providing the necessary expertise in disability issues and service requirements of assistive technologies to ensure individuals with disabilities are protected from abusive practices and are able to receive basic telecommunications services they require.

45 Compliance mechanism: In phase 2 of this process, MAC intends to explore with its constituency if such a DRO should be housed within the CRTC (in a manner similar to that of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the U.S.), or if Industry Canada or Canadian Heritage should establish a separate DRO or if a DRO that is independent of federal government agencies and operated by the community of Canadians with disabilities might be better for serving their needs. While the strategy of creating a DRO is still to be explored, MAC/Access 2020 group of stakeholders have no question about the need to establish such an office. Establishing and funding a dedicated office with skilled and caring staff that provides the Commission and the industry with disabilities lens on policy issues will assist both the government and providers better serve the basic telecommunications requirements of Canadians with disabilities. Given Canada’s aging population and the onset of various disabilities in the old age, all Canadians are likely to benefit from educational and dispute processing functions that a DRO can play.

5. Conclusions and recommendations

46 Broadband Internet as a basic service: Due to the importance of high-speed Internet connectivity for all Canadians, particularly those with a disability, we submit that the Commission should reclassify broadband access as a basic telecommunications service to be able to achieve statutory objectives set out under Section 7 of the Telecommunications Act. By defining broadband Internet access services in a technologically and competitively neutral manner, the Commission would reconcile the federal regulatory framework with the technological and economic reality that high-speed Internet access has become the most basic form of telecommunications service over which all other communications applications are delivered. Such a decision would furthermore be consistent with the mandate set out in the 2006 Policy Direction as it would minimize the potential for interfering with market forces. Canadians with disabilities, much like the rest of Canadians, consider reliable and affordable broadband Internet access services as an essential service required for 20 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders participating in social and economic activities. MAC/Access 2020 group of stakeholders submit that this proceeding provides another good opportunity for the Commission to institute this fact in the regulatory policy framework for the implementation of the Telecommunications and Broadcasting Acts.

47 Basic service standards: Basic telecommunication services for a person with a disability can require substantially faster services than the Commissions current 5 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up speed targets, more symmetric connectivity speeds, and larger amounts data limits than those without a disability. A basic package that includes verifiable minimum service quality guarantees is required for enabling Canadians with disabilities to take advantage of the wide range of educational, assistive, monitoring and other applications and services that require reliable and affordable connectivity. The key to defining basic services standards from a disabilities perspective is not necessarily the advertised/best effort (xMbps) speeds advertised by operators, but the availability of relatively symmetric high speed connections with minimum service quality guarantees. For example, for disability applications and services a 5/5 or 10/10 basic service package that guarantees such speeds as minimum the end user can expect are preferable to much higher advertised rates without any performance guarantees.18

48 Funding reliable and affordable access: We therefore submit that this proceeding provides yet another opportunity for the Commission to create a National Disability Subsidy Fund (NDSF) that supports the provision of basic service obligations to those with a disability. Although further consultation might be required to assess various options for funding the NDSF and distributing subsidies to Canadians with disabilities and low or no income, missing this opportunity to define broadband access as a basic service and develop a sustainable funding model for meeting the needs of disable Canadians would not be in the interest of Access 2020 stakeholders. We would be pleased discuss potential approaches for raising and allocating funds from this program, but submit that a stronger commitment by the Commission and Industry Canada to the communications needs of those with disabilities can have a positive impact on the quality of life of Canadians with disabilities.

18 Many service providers, particularly in urban areas advertise speeds over 100 Mbps download speed. Advertised rates tend to be lower in rural areas. These rates specified on a “best effort” basis in advertisements and retail contracts. As far as we are aware, there are no operators in Canada that offer quality of service guarantees to households and smaller to medium sized businesses in the Canadian retail market.

21 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders 49 Compliance and dispute processing: MAC/Access 2020 stakeholders are also in agreement that in addition to a funding mechanism, the Commission and industry must develop more robust mechanisms for serving the unique and rapidly growing need of those with disabilities for network access services. It is important that, as a basic service, Canadians with disabilities have access to expertise in telecommunications at the CRTC and from telecommunication providers. A Disabilities Rights Office (DRO) would help educate public and private sector stakeholders about disability issues assist the disabled with special problem they can have communicating with service providers, and helping the CCTS resolve disputes. The proposed DRO would help bridge the gap between all stakeholders by shining a disabilities lens on telecommunications (and broadcasting) policy issues to policymakers and service providers, as well as helping resolve day-to-day problems that arise between Canadians with disabilities and their service providers (e.g. mediating communications between an individual with a disability and a customer service representative of a service provider).

50 We hope the Commission will agree that our recommendations translate into encouraging a wise investment in greater accessibility and inclusion for everyone, but form part of a basic service framework for access to telecommunications for Canadians with disabilities.

51 MAC on behalf of Access 2020 would like to thank the Commission for allowing them to participate in this public process.

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22 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders 23 MAC - The Access 2020 Group of Accessibility Stakeholders

Intervention: Media Access Canada (Intervenor 246)

Document Name: 2015-134.223960.2394412.Intervention(1fbjg01!).html

Please see attachedRaisons pour comparaitre / Reasons for appearanceTo further detail our submission attached